Patrick Ritter, the general manager in charge of opening the Kempinski Hotel Yinchuan, is a Canadian and German national with more than 20 years experience in the hotel industry. China Hospitality News spoke to him about his plans for the hotel.
What were the key factors that made Kempinski decide to manage this Yinchuan property?
The key factors for managing such a prestigious property in Yinchuan City is that Ningxia Province has become a key player through infrastructure investment and international efforts in transforming Ningxia into a business friendly environment. We predict more and more business individuals will be traveling to Yinchuan and while doing so they will be searching out the unique hotel experience that Kempinski Hotels are internationally known to deliver and have done so for more than 113 years.
For the leisure market, Yinchuan also offers many exciting destinations such as the Helan Mountains, the unforgettable Rock Paintings, the Western Xia Tombs, Pyramid Tombs, Ningxia's vast history, and many other tourist locations.
As the only five star international brand hotel in Yinchuan City our hotel will compliment any discerning traveler by offering a wide range of cuisine and shopping experiences in the adjacent mall, which has over 30 shops. Kempinski's decision to be a part of this exciting city is that we foresee considerable growth in the region. The quality of the hotel meets with all Kempinski's expectations in regards to design, interiors and sound structure.
When will the Kempinski Hotel Yinchuan open? What can you tell us about the hotel's hardware facilities?
The Kempinski Hotel Yinchuan will be the leader, not only for its international experience, but in regards to high quality workmanship and the use of imported heavy and light equipment from such parts of the world as Germany, the United States, and Italy: to name but a few. Each area of the hotel property, the hotel, the mall, and the office tower, is made of the highest quality material and is considered as the focal point of modern and advanced construction in Yinchuan City and in the entire Ningxia Province. The architecture design was prepared by "Urban Design” and the interiors by "Di Leonardo”. The hotel boasts 409 rooms with a Presidential Suite, s Diplomatic Suite and thirty-nine suites. The hotel is scheduled to soft open in the spring of 2010.
What advantages do you think Yinchuan offers to business and leisure travelers?
Firstly, Yinchuan is the capital city of Ningxia province, it is approximately 1,000 years old and it is rich in history. Therefore Yinchuan city is the center of all business with strengths in agriculture, natural resources, and sustainable energy sources. Yinchuan Hedong Airport, which is only 25 kilometers from the city center, is connected to over 20 other cities within China either by direct flights or connecting through other major cities. Phase two of the airport is near completion and will focus on international direct flights in the near future. The most attractive scenic part of Yinchuan is the Helan Mountain scenic area, the Sand Lake.
There are many city attractions in and around Yinchuan City and within driving distance. For example you can visit the Western Xia Tombs and the famous Rock Paintings, then break for lunch and continue to the Twin Pagodas and be back on time for your spa appointment or a casual drink in the Lobby Lounge.
What potential business opportunities do you foresee for the Kempinski Hotel Yinchuan with respect to MICE, leisure, or business travel?
Kempinski Hotel Yinchuan enjoys a superb location being in the heart of the new city of Yinchuan and with panoramic views of Beijing Road. Being an internationally managed five-star hotel with a good location and high quality hotel facilities and services, we will attract high-end domestic business people as well as a high share of the smaller international business market. While leisure is an even smaller market in Yinchuan, we will have some national and international tourists.
The hotel will become a landmark in the city and surrounding areas and a focal point for government and corporate accommodation, meetings, conferences, and entertainment needs plus being the preferred venue for hosting dignitaries to the city. It will also be the first choice for leisure and relaxation in the district, with the property not only providing an extensive array of facilities but also providing international standard hotel services.
With the investment and economic policy set up by China's central government, the rapid expansion of the economy of Ningxia province and other cities in the northwest of China, and in particular the outstanding growth in the municipal government of Yinchuan, there is substantial potential for volume and traffic in the market. The main focus for 2010, will be to project an international brand image to corporate guests. We will aim to create awareness of the hotel in business media. We will direct mail to key corporate agents in target markets. Close interaction with national trade organizations and tourism boards will provide on-going updates of the hotel and its presence.
Another area of focus will be the meetings, exhibitions and incentive market, regional and national training seminar groups, and corporate clientele from medium to large corporations. The main feeder markets for the corporate and meetings segments will be domestic Chinese, Hong Kong，with some European, Middle Eastern and North American business. The hotel is close to Yinchuan International Convention and Exhibition Center which will be an advantage for us.
Active participation in trade shows and sales and marketing efforts by our global sales office will form ties between wholesalers and tour operators and the hotel. The leisure segment will consist mostly of domestic Chinese weekend guests for shopping and relaxation with some Southeast Asian groups from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea.
What is the attraction of the Yinchuan hotel to the business travelers and MICE organizers? If guests have an extra couple of days to stay when they have completed their business, where do you advise them to go?
The main attraction for our hotel will be the outstanding facilities we have to offer. All guest rooms are modern in design offering the latest in hardware, including complimentary Internet connection. The restaurants range from international cuisine, the ever popular Paulaner Brauhaus (the in house microbrewery), and a Chinese restaurant boasting 32 private rooms. We offer an exclusive and exquisite Wine Room with two private rooms with an inventory of 1,000 and more bottles. Also planned will be an evening lounge and restaurant above our Chinese restaurant featuring live Jazz, a wide selection of cocktails, and multi course menus. Our banquet facilities are state of the art supported by the grand ballroom with 860 square meters of usable floor space and natural daylight complimented by two outdoor terraces and a VIP room. Our six conference rooms are perfect for smaller meetings and range from 75 to 100 square meters, and there is plenty of freedom in our foyers which cover more than 450 square meters. The Kempi Deli will be on hand for a quick fix for appetites before, during, and after business meetings; and the lobby lounge will receive and greet our guests closing any business deal. The International Conference and Exhibition Center is within walking distance from the hotel making the location idea for any business traveler.
There are many things to do in the city or just in the Kempinski Hotel Yinchuan such as spa treatments, swimming or relaxing in our wet spa. For the adventurous guests we have the Tengger Desert and sand dunes, river rafting on the Yellow River, and an 18-hole golf course. Directly across from the hotel is the Ningxia museum.
We know that you have a rich culinary experience. What is your favorite regional cuisine here?
Yinchuan has many different varieties of foods such as mutton, watermelons, sweet tomatoes, rice, wolfberries (Goji Berry) and a large selection of fresh vegetables grow in the region. I drink a considerable amount of wolfberry tea during the day and the fresh wolfberries I add to most of my foods when preparing dinner at home adding a small taste of sweetness. The mutton is also another favorite of mine. The weather conditions in Ningxia poduce water and grass full of minerals allowing the Mudflat Sheep to be tender and odor free. This is regarded as a very fine specialty item in Yinchuan. Yinchuan mutton is exported in large quantities to most Islamic countries in the Middle East.
I have had the opportunity to experience the local Haggis (sliced mutton, vermicelli noodles and sliced pancake in a hot broth with chopped chilies' and onions) which is considered a delicacy in Yinchuan. This was extremely enjoyable however as this is a breakfast specialty I do not find the time to enjoy this on a daily basis. It is hot and spicy in every way and I would prefer it at lunch.
Bearing in mind your management experience in other countries, what challenges do you expect from Yinchuan hotel?
Our current challenge is to bring on board experienced employees in all levels since our expectations are also very high and we really look for energetic individuals of all ages. This is the case in most countries where I have had the opportunity to work. Maintenance of the hotel property is another challenge and requires an ongoing check and follow-up of all equipment and building structures. I believe in one way or another most challenges are the same regardless where you work.
What is your management philosophy? How does one increase employee satisfaction in order to increase customer satisfaction?
Kempinski, Europe's oldest luxury hotel group, believes that human resources is a strategic key value driver and it is committed to fostering multi-cultural people management. Our vision is about people with core values such as integrity, open communication, respect, creativity and talent developed through training. We give our employees the tools they will need to perform their jobs. Our goal is to aim high for our current and future employees for future career opportunities within Kempinski, not just in China but also in the international field.
Kempinski strongly believes in employee staff satisfaction as well as in customer satisfaction. We recognize that training is essential and a learning process in helping people prepare themselves to better achieve their own goals. This philosophy develops happy and genuine employees confident about their future.
In conclusion, Yinchuan is a city to be visited and experienced by everyone. Its vast areas of parks and natural surroundings make this city a place to walk and enjoy the sights and sounds. A real pleasure. I hope that I can welcome your readers to the Kempinski Hotel Yinchuan where a true five-star luxury hotel can be found.